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The Possibility of Theomusicology: William Bradbury’s Esther, the Beautiful Queen

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Abstract African-American scholar, theologian, and musician Jon Michael Spencer issued his initial publications on his theory of theomusicology in 1986. As an alternative to more traditional musicologies, Spencer specifies theomusicology as a theoretical model of theologically, biblically, and spiritually-informed historical and analytical studies in music, of particular appropriateness to African-American music making. Theomusicology redirects the analytical and critical objectivity of musicologies to facilitate concentration on iterations of ethical, religious, and mythological beliefs, regardless of their medium, location, and cultural function. It seeks ways to describe the synthesis of the sacred and profane—the meshing of seeming opposites. This article explores the application of theomusicology to African-American performances of a popular large-scale vocal work entitled, Esther, the Beautiful Queen, written in 1856 by U.S. composer William Bradbury.


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Affiliations: 1: Case Western Reserve University


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